Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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Knowing When to Ask for Help: Food Entrepreneur Blog Series

The last couple of weeks have been challenging to say the least, perhaps even the most difficult I’ve had so far on this venture.  Without boring you to tears with the details, I’ve wrestled with everything from building a food community to securing funding to fears about money and a bazillion other things that keep me up at night.

But the most recent thing I learned is that being an entrepreneur can be extremely lonely.

I find myself trying to achieve the perfect balance between being a determined business owner and a woman that knows she can’t do it all by herself.  This struggle finally ended in a (admittedly much-overdue) full-on meltdown, complete with blubbering and a half a box of tissues. Clearly I’m still working on that balance thing.

At the end of my emotional week, I had drinks with a dear friend who has built up her own thriving business from scratch.  She made a comment about how her husband played a key role in her success.   However, her girlfriends get really upset when she says that…the underlying interpretation probably being that she couldn’t have done it by herself.

An interesting thing happened.  I found myself immediately rising to her defense and making the comment that a good entrepreneur always needs help, and seeking help out is part of being successful.  It took me all of about two seconds to realize my own hypocrisy…as this is what I struggled with all week, and if I’m being honest, probably all year.

I’m not entirely sure what to do with this newfound knowledge, but suffice it to say, I’m more aware of it now and can (hopefully) work towards find better balance.  And avoiding the meltdown thing in the future would be pretty great too.

New Farmers Market Locations and Schedule

We’ve got a lot of things planned in the next couple of months.  Here’s our new Farmers Market schedule:

Lafayette, Thursdays from 4-8pm, beginning Aug 4
Walnut Creek, first Sunday each month, beginning Aug 8
Burlingame, Sundays 9am – 1:30pm (every week except the first Sunday of the month)

The flavors change every week, so stop by and visit if you can!

Upcoming Cooking Demonstrations

If you’re interested in learning about introducing solids and how to make your own organic baby food, consider attending one of our upcoming cooking demonstrations.

Usually these are 1 hour in length, either free or a minimal cost, and you get to take home some of the food we make.  Or, if you’re interested in a hands-on cooking class, complete this quick form and I’ll let you know about our upcoming schedule.

Kaiser Daly City
Tuesday, August 2
2:45 – 3:45pm
View event details here (limited to Kaiser moms)

GetzWell Pediatrics
Tuesday, August 16
6pm – 7:30pm
View event details here

Whole Foods Los Altos
with Petite Village
Wednesday, September 21
6:30 – 7:45pm
More details coming soon!

Hope to see you at the farmers market or one of our cooking demos.  Have a great week everyone!

A Change is Coming: Introducing the Little City Kitchen Co. Blog Series

The Little City Kitchen Co. blog is changing!  In the beginning, I focused my blog posts on the process of starting this company.  The good, the bad, and the ugly…you guys read it all.  The first 150 readers were, as usual, a combination of family & close friends interested in keeping up with my progress.

Now that Little City Kitchen Co. baby food is for sale (and my readership is at 500 and growing – yay!), I’m receiving requests to blog about topics a little more relevant to baby food. I’ve always wanted the blog to be interesting, informative, and fun to read, so I’ve decided to break down the blog into more topic-specific “series”.

More details coming in the next week, but here’s an example of some of the series I’ve created:

The Scoop on Starting Solids: Readers will be able to submit common questions that will be answered by me or by a guest blogger.  I’ve done a lot (let me repeat: a lot) of learning about which foods babies should be eating.  At the farmers market, I find myself answering questions about nutrition, when to introduce certain foods, concerns about allergies, etc… so I’ll be sharing this information with other interested parents.

Tips on Making Your Own Baby Food: Hints on from the Little City kitchen about how any home cook can make their own organic baby food.  The aim of this series will be to demystify the cooking process and provide tips for busy parents who want to feed their kiddos the healthiest food around.

Tales of a Food Entrepreneur: My crazy stories about starting and running this company…mostly the format of the blog up until this point.  You guys know, I’m a first-time food entrepreneur and am learning so much along the way.  This is my way of documenting the building of the business, one success and mistake at a time.

You’ll be able to subscribe to each series individually, or all of them, depending on what content you find most relevant.  This way you get to read the information that you really want, and not necessarily every topic I write about.

Baby Food Giveaway

What would a new blog format be without a new contest?  I’m currently seeking your questions to kick off the “Scoop on Starting Solids” series…and I have no problem resorting to bribery.  Send me a baby food-related question on your mind, and if it’s picked to be featured in the blog, you will win a free pack of Little City Kitchen Co. organic baby food.  It’s that easy.

To enter: simply type your question in the comment section below, email it to me directly, or post it on our Facebook page.  If I select your question for the blog, then you’re a winner!

That’s it for me this week.  Had two great cooking demos this week, one at GetzWell Pediatrics and one at Monkey Bars.  Another great day at the Burlingame market and things are starting to click in Alameda as well.  Hope everyone has a great week!


The Rule of Three: Realistic Expectations from a Food Entrepreneur

As many of my long-time readers know, the process of starting Little City Kitchen Co. (and I imagine any new business) has been the roller coaster ride of my life.  One week I’m on the top of the world filled with boundless excitement and momentum…and then there’s the inevitable valley where I take what feels like a zillion steps backwards.

Two things have helped me somewhat adjust to this pattern, the first being repetition.  The up-and-down game has occurred 50+ times so far, so it’s a little less shocking to the system now.

The second is a perspective I’ve come to refer to as the “Rule of Three”.

Everything will take me three times as long (and cost three times as much) as I originally expect.

For example: I thought it would take three months to get baby food to market; it took me nine.  Six weeks for a small business loan; yeah, try four months and counting.  Product liability insurance premiums, okay, let’s not even go there…

The good news is that I now have a more realistic estimate of time and expense, not to mention that I start projects much earlier now!  This way there are fewer surprises along the way, and even the occasional “Yippee!” when things take less time to accomplish than I expect.

Kickoff Day in Alameda

I promised to be honest with you guys, so while I wish I could report that Little City Kitchen Co’s first day at the Alameda farmers market was excellent, that was not entirely the case.  I’m not sure whether my expectations weren’t realistic (because of how well the Burlingame market has been going), or if it’s not the right place for me…it’s a little too soon to tell.

Even though the sales were weak, the interest was definitely there, so hopefully I can gain some momentum over the coming weeks.  Figure I’ll give it a good 6-8 weeks and see what’s what after that.  I’m still really enthusiastic about the market and the charming Alameda area.  The peeps were fantastic, I just wish there were a few more of them!

The Scoop on Starting Solids

Excited about two baby food demo events I have this week: one on Saturday morning at Monkey Bars in Alameda, and one on Tuesday night in partnership with GetzWell Pediatrics.  It’s going to be a beautiful weekend, so come out to the Spring Festival in Alameda and join me!

Cooking up the Goodies

This has been a fun week in the kitchen.  As most of my farmers market customers know, the flavors rotate every week depending on what’s in season (and what I feel like cooking).  This week I’m working on an Ethiopian spiced red lentil dish called W’at, and my baby version of Broccoli “Au Gratin” with some roasted cauliflower and a hint of parmesan and cheddar cheese.

Hope to see you at one of the farmers markets or at the baby food demo events!


Alameda Farmers Market adds Baby Food from Little City Kitchen Co.

The Little City kitchen has been abuzz.  Hot off the press…our organic baby food will now be available at the Alameda farmers market starting Tuesday, May 3.

Most of my readers know that getting into farmers markets has been harder than I anticipated.  Many of the good ones are full, and I wasn’t too excited about starting at a smaller market.  So you can imagine my disappointment when I received a letter saying I’d been waitlisted for the charming Alameda market.

I’ve said it a few times; you can’t take “no” so easily as an entrepreneur. Instead of just accepting this fact, I marched off the following Tuesday and spoke directly with the market manager.  It turns out this was an oversight (whew!), which was quickly followed with the question “when can you start?”

So you can now find LCKC baby food on Sunday mornings at the Burlingame Farmers Market, and Tuesday mornings at the Alameda Farmers Market.  Still working on securing a monthly spot at the Noe Valley farmers market on Saturdays so I can have some presence in the city.  (Note to new readers – if you would buy baby food at the Noe Valley farmers market, sign this petition to help get us in!).

There will also be a few more pickup and delivery options coming soon, so stay tuned if Burlingame and/or Alameda aren’t convenient for you.

Cooking Demonstrations

Many of you know that I love to teach, so it comes as no surprise that leading off-site cooking demos has been a blast for me (and okay, I always love an audience).  I have two events coming up.  Both are discussion on baby’s first foods & child nutrition followed by a baby food cooking demo led by yours truly.

Saturday, May 7th at Monkey Bars in Alameda:
Click here for event details or to RSVP

Part of the Pediatric Series, led by Tracy Zollinger, Acupuncturist and Herbalist.
**It’s also the Alameda Spring Festival, so Park St. will be lined with arts & crafts and food vendors.  Giveaways and samples all day at Monkey Bars, so it’s fun day for the whole family!

Tuesday, May 10th at GetzWell Pediatrics:
Click here for event details or to RSVP

Emily Novak Waight of GetzWell Pediatrics will dispel myths surrounding first foods (and talk about why meat may be a better first food instead of rice cereal).  Dr. Julia Getzelman has been a guest blogger of Little City Kitchen Co., so I’m excited to partner with such a great team once again!

Working on a workshop with Kaiser in August and another baby food cooking demo at the Birth & Baby Fair in June.  More to come on both of those…

All in all, it’s been a busy week for me.  Looking forward to another great Sunday in Burlingame, and fingers crossed that the first Tuesday in Alameda will be met with the same enthusiasm.  Now it’s back to the kitchen for me…


Tales from the Burlingame Farmers Market: Little City Kitchen Co. is Open for Business

I did something on Sunday that I haven’t done in nearly 10 months…I set my alarm for 6:00am and got up early for work.  Even though my body rebelled at getting up when it was still dark, I must admit that I woke up with a smile on my face and hopped out of bed for what would become Little City Kitchen Co’s first revenue-producing day.  I didn’t even hit the snooze button once – holy cow, I was really excited.

I arrived in Burlingame by 7:30am and proceeded to unload my packed-to-the-gills car.  I’m happy to report that even my tent setup went smoothly…thanks in part to some practice time in the backyard of my best friend’s house and to the very nice egg vendor that helped me at the market <insert sigh here>.  Setup in general went easily and before I knew it, it was 9:00am and the market was open.

My First Customer

My First Customer!

My first sale was a pack of the sweet potato and coconut brown rice, a flavor which would turn out to be my most popular of the day.

As I’m putting the baby food in a bag for my first customer, I’m thinking to myself “how much of a goofball would I be if I asked for a picture with her”?  I decided a huge one, but asked anyways.  Abbie M. was a great sport so here’s a shot with her, me, her two kiddos, and the first baby food pack I sold.

One big unexpected thing happened.  About 30 minutes into the market I started noticing a lot of toddlers (12-24 months)…more so even than babies.  Once I told people that these purees were a great toddler snack alternative to applesauce, they went crazy for it!  I developed these recipes with babies from 7-12 months in mind, but at the end of the day, almost half of the people that bought baby food were parents with toddlers over 1 year old.  Who knew??

I brought 3 flavors to the market with me.  The sweet potato and coconut brown rice sold out in about an hour and a half.  The Cuban black beans sold out in another hour after that.  And I returned with only a few packages of roasted golden beets.  Here’s a picture of the last sample, handed out about 10 minutes before the market closed.  Good planning!

And the Verdict is?

And as far as the reaction from the Burlingame parents…overwhelmingly enthusiastic! I had people telling me they were so excited to see someone finally selling baby food, and one mom even texted 3 of her Burlingame mommy-friends to tell them all about me.  Considering it was the first market of the season, and according to the market manager, foot traffic was extremely light, it was a great start AND it looks promising for the future.

So that’s it folks…the end of the startup phase and the beginning of a real business.  More good news coming too, like when you can find Little City Kitchen Co. baby food in Alameda <hint: starting May 3 at the Alameda Tuesday farmers market>.  Now it’s time for me to get back in the kitchen to finish food for this week’s little ones!

Introducing Baby Food: The Countdown to the Burlingame Farmers Market

So it’s finally here…  I started Little City Kitchen Co. in June 2010 never fully realizing that it would take me nine more months to sell a single item.  And here we are, two tiny little days before my big debut at the Burlingame Farmers Market, and I can barely contain myself.

My dear friend Dennis from Coco Delice asked me yesterday if I was nervous.  Without thinking, I answered with a resounding “No”.  Totally true, I’m not nervous…however, doing something the first time isn’t my favorite thing.  I confess the only thing that’s really been on my mind is how much of an idiot I’m going to look like putting my tent up the first time (subsequently I’ll be practicing that this weekend in my driveway).

Cooking Demo and Discussion

Let’s start first with a special shout out to my new friends at the Mt. Diablo Mothers Group.  I led a baby food discussion and cooking demo on Monday and man-oh-man, we had some fun in the kitchen.  I had planned on a one-hour demo, but these gals were full of great questions.  I consider myself passionate about food, kids, and teaching…so when I can combine all three, I’m like a kid in a candy store.  I had a ton of fun ladies, so thanks for your participation and great energy!

Permit me…to now sell in San Mateo Co.

As my long-term readers know, the whole permit process has been a constant uphill battle.  You have to figure out which agency to call, then who to talk to, then what questions to ask (because heaven forbid the health departments volunteer information), and then if you’re lucky, you can meet the requirements needed to get your permit to sell.  Not easy!

But I finally seem to be getting the hang of it.  I walked into the San Mateo health department with all the necessary information…and guess what…I walked out with a permit to sell in the county – score!  It’s such a relief to know what is expected, and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m not such a rookie.

Back in the Kitchen

Aside from a few private orders or creating new recipes, I really haven’t been in the kitchen regularly since the Baby Tasters in October.  I joked with my landlord that I’m like the best roommate ever because I’m never there!

This week I got back in the kitchen and whipped up all the goodies to sell on Sunday: Golden beets with dill, sweet potato & coconut brown rice, and Cuban black beans with plantains, mango & coconut. Made an effort to keep it simple this week and went with my easy-to-make, proven recipes.  Mmmmm…

People have asked me how much I plan to bring to the first market…  I’m only going to have about 30-35 packs of food to start and see how it goes.  I have no idea what to expect!  In my perfect ideal world, the Burlingame peeps will be super-excited about the food and I sell out quickly… Fingers crossed.

And here we go…wish me luck!  Full report on how it goes next week.

Burlingame Farmers Market adds baby food from Little City Kitchen Co.

I want to take out a gigantic billboard that says “YES!”  It’s (nearly) official: Little City Kitchen Co. will be joining the vendors at the Burlingame Farmers Market on Sunday mornings beginning April 3, 2011.

Every step of the process has been so much harder (and taken so much longer) than I ever expected.  It’s a little surreal…because getting into this market was so easy that it’s kinda freaking me out!

I called the Burlingame market on Monday, met with them on Wednesday, talked to the San Mateo Health Department on Thursday and – after I write a $450 check – am pretty much good to go.

For those who aren’t familiar with Burlingame, it’s an adorable town near the SFO airport, lots of families and a great community atmosphere. The farmers market is pretty big with 50+ vendors, and it’s located smack-dab in the middle of downtown surrounded by the super-cute (and somewhat high-end) shops.  A great market for me!

What happens next?  Well, all those things I’ve been putting off until I start selling just came crashing down on me!  There’s so much to do now including…

  • Buy farmers market equipment (tables, chair, tent, cooler, etc…),
  • Design and print a baby food banner for the tent
  • Finalize my labels, a constant thorn in my side
  • Start cooking – Yay!
  • Figure out how all this is going to fit into my 4-door Audi

But hey – I’m finally in business and am thrilled.  And really people, it will also be nice to actually be depositing money into my business account instead of always withdrawing it!

Other Selling Locations

I am still trying to get into the Noe Valley market on Saturdays, so if you would consider buying baby food from LCKC at that market (whether you live in Noe Valley or not), then please sign the petition to help get me in there.  I have about 50 signatures, so half way there!  Help a sistah out and spread the word among your friends and colleagues.

As for other farmers markets, I’ve submitted my applications and am waiting to hear back from several of them. Never a dull moment…now my greatest concern is what if the Walnut Creek or San Rafael markets (both on Sundays) are interested?  It’s like not having any clothes that fit after losing weight…it’s a nice problem to have.

That’s been the biggest piece of news so far this week!  So all you mommies and daddies down in Burlingame, get those palates warmed up.  More details sure to come.

Have a great weekend everyone.

15 Markets in 15 Days – My Journey to Find the Perfect Farmers Market

I can say with certainty that I’m now am East Bay farmers market expert.  My pilgrimage started in Alameda on Saturday, February 12 and ended on Sunday, February 27 in Noe Valley.  I browsed and sampled my way through some of the best farmers markets in the area and got a “crash course” on becoming a vendor in the process.

I started in the East Bay with my target markets: Pleasanton, Walnut Creek, Danville, Berkeley, etc…  This is when I learned what most large farmers markets have in common: they’re FULL. Peak growing season is May-Nov, so they can’t take additional vendors now without leaving enough room for their regular vendors to sell starting in May.  Hmmmm…  We’ll come back to that.

But off I went.  The folks who know me well can easily picture this scenario: here’s me, with my little cooler bag filled with samples, a laminated “fact sheet” with contact info and baby food flavors, and a picture collage filled with great pics of me and the food.  I even had fresh baby food and sample cups so that I could offer tastes, although I must admit that didn’t go over too well, so I left that at home after the first weekend.

The reaction: they went crazy once they saw what the cubes look like!  Every market manager said the same thing…”I’ve never seen baby food like that”. Score!!

So which were my favorite markets?  In the East Bay, I fell in love with the Walnut Creek market.  And in the city, it’s Noe Valley all the way for me.  Both markets are medium-sized, but bustling with strollers and families, even in the cool weather.  Not surprisingly, both markets are “full” (I’m calling it the new f-word because I’ve heard it so much).

Where to go from here….well, I’ve never been one to simply take “no” for an answer, so I’m trying to make a case why these markets should consider making an exception in my case.  I have a unique product, which helps my case greatly, but more importantly, I have to show that there is demand for LCKC baby food in their area.

So how can you help?

I’ve started a petition of sorts!

If you would consider buying baby food in the future from Little City Kitchen Co. at the Noe Valley Farmers market (whether you live in Noe Valley OR the surrounding areas), please sign your name to this very brief form.  I have a goal of collecting 100 signatures which will hopefully make a strong case to the Noe Valley board.

Please also forward to your San Francisco friends that may be interested in purchasing baby food in the future.  As of this morning I have almost 40 signatures, so still have a long way to go!

A big shout out to all the peeps that have already signed…  I’m excited to see so many new names and look forward to meeting you guys in person!

Baby Food Cooking Demo – Join me this Sunday

There are still a few spots left for Sunday’s baby food cooking demo at Tot Tank in Alameda. Sunday, March 6, from 1-2pm.  Learn how easy it is to make your own baby food, and take home all the food we make in class.  Click here for more details, and RSVP to me by Friday, March 4.

Next week I hope to have some preliminary conversations with retail stores in the area, so let’s hope their reaction is as positive as the farmers markets once they see the baby food.  Hope everyone has a great Friday and weekend.